Hotel technology is developing in leaps and bounds across the globe, with the African continent in particular gaining traction as a major force in the hospitality industry. The region’s potential continues to grow as several countries experience a boom in tourism, development and investment.
Africa, however, still lags behind somewhat in terms of uptake of hotel technology, but with the hospitality industry thriving and investors setting their sights on further tapping into its potential, developments in hotel technology on the continent will have to speed up in order to satisfy global travellers who are used to digital accommodations, meet guest demand and provide competitive levels of guest service and engagement.
With most of this technology coming from outside Africa’s borders, it makes it hard to constantly invest in this ever-changing technological landscape – not to mention fluctuating exchange rates. A major overhaul of a hotel’s existing infrastructure is also often cost-prohibitive, so hotels have to do their homework and be selective of what they install. Says Ian Lumsden, Sales and Marketing Director at Ankerdata, a hospitality solutions business provider and official re-seller of Protel hotel software in Africa, “It’s important that the systems you implement are easily-upgradable, are interactive, can operate over many platforms, and incorporate additional hotels seamlessly and inexpensively.”
There is no doubt technology is becoming more of a determining factor in guests’ decisions of where to book a room. The empowering of the guest through mobility and seamless accessibility in and around the hotel is key. With the use of agile digital interfaces, hotels will be able to attend to their guests earlier, from booking airport pick-ups to upgrading rooms, performing early check-ins and even arranging meetings for them.
Hotels need to ensure that they are up to speed in terms of their offerings. Lumsden says that Ankerdata continually look for ways to improve their products: “For instance, new functionality on our app includes online check-in, express check-out, room service and online shop, direct communication with the concierge, you can open your door with blue tooth and guests can view their invoices.” These full-service apps will pave the way for improved customer satisfaction, and the data thus generated will enable hotels to offer a better service and pursue more sales opportunities.
The group are also about to launch a new booking app that includes a payment gateway, the first company in South Africa to offer this.
Recent technological advances like AI and robotics are perhaps still a little out of reach, however there are many other innovations that hotels can adopt to set themselves apart and ultimately surprise and delight hotel guests.
“Africa needs to prioritize and embrace technological trends,” says Eben Marais, Managing Director at Ankerdata. He adds that hotels need to identify the appropriate innovation and adaptation tools that will meet their guests’ ever-changing expectations and thus increase revenue. “Guests are demanding more digital technology solutions from hotels but in order to keep the guest experience personalised, hotels need also to be proactive by understanding their needs and then providing the services automatically.”
Africa is ready for this technology, and with a virtual smorgasbord of technology options available locally, hotels on the continent would be remiss not to get their houses in order.